For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer’s Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1797 Plain (5 Nov 2006)

With another crossword-setting century just around the corner, Azed’s standards and entertainment value remain as high as ever. This puzzle contains new approaches to some oft-clued words (COIN and GROW amongst others), as well as the chance for competitors to come up with something original for HEART. He allows himself a touch of vulgarity at 20a, but avoids direct references to the body parts that appear at 27a and 26d.

Notes to the clues:


10.    A tip: this type of cuisine may take the form of a plain velouté.  NOUVELLE (comp. anag., & lit.).  Azed appears to have miscounted his letters in this compound anagram. The ‘a’ before ‘plain’ can’t have any cryptic role other than as part of the anagram material, but is surplus to that requirement.

15.    One confined to study as of old? COIN (I in con).  The very well-disguised definition can be found under as3 in Chambers.

20.    Teetotaller worried re ‘dirt’ imbibed by worthless fellow.  WATER-DRINKER (anag. in wanker).  Azed’s certainly not shy of the occasional profanity, but this took Dr Watson by surprise. It should be noted that Azed does have his limits – he once disqualified some clues to AGILE in a Spoonerisms competition for being ‘obscene’. Naturally, Slip readers didn’t get the full details, but Watson guesses stunts might have come into it.


6.      Hunter, sea-eagle coming down from height. HERNE (h + erne).  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the definition, this is a beautifully worded down clue. Dr Watson tracked down Herne the Hunter in the increasingly indispensable Wikipedia, but he can also be found in Brewer’s. He is a semi-mythical character referred to in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where he’s said to haunt the royal parks.

8.      Jack maybe getting drunk in time.  HONOUR (on in hour).  ‘On’ as an anagram indicator is amongst Dr Watson’s cryptic dislikes. Its use always seems a bit lazy, but here it’s fine as a defined part of the solution. A Jack is an honour in card play.

16.    Greenish sauce is mixed with a bit of oregano in…  CAESIOUS (o in anag.).  Keep this up your sleeve for the next time someone claims that ‘facetious’ and ‘abstemious’ are the only two English words to contain all the vowels in order.

17.    …As such? (Moreish, but with no cocaine in!)  ADDITIVE (addi(C)tive).  ‘As such’ here referring to the oregano added to the sauce above.

22.    Young Billy against skirting small river – one flowing into Dead Sea.  KIDRON (R in kid on).  The Kidron river valley connects Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. It’s not clear whether the cryptic reading refers to Billy the Kid or the capitalisation is misleading.

26.    Elite? Wellington’s seen protecting this (rear of horse).  TEWEL (hidden).  Given Azed’s willingness to publish and be damned with the clue at 20a, his choice of definition here is rather euphemistic.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. INFOTECH (anag.);  7. WHOP (w + hop);  11. HOWL (H-owl);  12. BURD (drub, rev.);  13. CHARANGO (chara n.g. o’);  14. OMADHAUN (0 + mad + a in Hun);  19. ONE-AND-THIRTY (anag.);  27. YONI (hidden);  28. ATTENDEE (tende(r) in ate);  29. MAIOLICA (aioli C in ma);  30. GROW (g row);  31. AITU (it in Au);  32. OVERCOME (anag. in anag.);  33. REES (ree(d)s);  34. SENTINEL (sent + anag.)  Down: 1. INBOX (I N.B. ox);  2. NOUMENAL (no U men al(l));  3. FURANE (ran in fue(l));  4. TECHY (Ch. in yet, rev.);  5. CLAUSTRA (Cl. + Au + anag.);  7. WHACKING (hack in wing);  9. PLONG (L in pong);  18. STEREOME (anag. in some);  21. TONITE ((expl)o(sion) in anag.);  23. CYMAR (a in Cymr(u));  24. HALOS (solah, rev.);  25. HEART.